Local events put jazz in the spotlight
CHAMPAIGN — The local UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship will host two events to celebrate International Jazz Day, to be celebrated here Tuesday.
Kicking off the evening, from 5 to 6:30 at the Art Theater Co-op, will be the screening of "Jazz Film Fantasy," a presentation of short films featuring Duke Ellington and Bessie Smith.
Then, from 7 to 9, the Traditional Jazz Orchestra will perform at the nearby Esquire Lounge.
Both events are free and open to the public.
At the Art Theater Co-op, Sam Reese, associate professor emeritus of music education at the University of Illinois, will give brief introductions to the three cinematic short subjects:
— "St. Louis Blues" (1929), which has the only footage in existence of the great blues singer Bessie Smith and was co-produced by W.C. Handy, who had composed the title song 15 years earlier.
— "Black and Tan Fantasy" (1929), a precursor to today's music videos, showcases the great Duke Ellington and His Cotton Club Orchestra. The plot: The Duke is saved from having his piano repossessed through the timely intervention of a bottle of bootleg gin. This visual embodiment of the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance marked Ellington's screen debut.
— In "Date with Duke" (1947), director George Pal combined stop-motion animation with live action. In this title from Pal's series of "Puppetoons," a debonair Ellington interacts with animated perfume bottles to the accompaniment of his composition "Perfume Suite."
The program at the Art Theater Co-op, 126 W. Church St., C, will wrap up by 6:30 to allow interested audience members to walk to the Esquire Lounge, 106 N. Walnut St., in time for the performance by the Traditional Jazz Orchestra, led by trombonist and composer Morgan Powell, with Dan Anderson on tuba and upright bass; Jeff Helgesen, cornet; Mike Miller, banjo; and Randy Salman, clarinet.
The group plays hot music from the early years of jazz, including works by King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, and Fats Waller.
These free performances are partially underwritten by the Center for Global Citizenship, the Conservatory of Central Illinois, the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, the university's Center for Global Studies.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially designated International Jazz Day to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe.
The UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship is a community-university organization founded on the belief that multicultural knowledge and intercultural understanding generate a better, more interesting, more productive and more peaceful world.